Sunday, June 29, 2008

Open Letter to Ralph Nader

Nearly four years ago, I posted an open letter to Ralph Nader. Since it involves Instant Runoff Voting and seems to be once again relevant (with Nader again running for President), I'm reposting it here:

On July 9, 2004, Ralph Nader and Howard Dean debated the role of third parties in U.S. elections. The debate was sponsored by NPR and can be heard online at A transcript of the the debate is at I was happy to hear both Nader and Dean endorse Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), a method for fixing the "spoiler" problem. This system of voting is described at IRV allows a voter to vote for a third party candidate without the fear of throwing the election to the major party candidate that they like least. This would allow a qualified third party to steadily build support, something that is not currently possible.

I think that Nader could best publicize this issue by running his campaign to promote his positions but dropping out just before the election, stating that he is forced to do so by the current system so that he does not act as a spoiler. He could then recommend that his supporters vote for the candidate who has best taken up his positions or that he most supports. That, at least, would give him some political leverage and the major parties, as well as the people, might give a little more thought to addressing this issue. In any case, this would be much more responsible than acting as a spoiler.

Ironically, a spoiler is most likely to throw the election to the candidate who he is least like. During the debate, Nader asked the question: "And if you don't vote your conscience, I'd like to hear from you about what part of your body you are voting". I would propose that, in not facilitating Bush's election by voting for Nader, that voter is voting their BRAIN. Nader likewise needs to exercise his brain along with his well-developed conscience.

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